Your Guide to the Difference Between D1 and D2 College Soccer Scholarships

We’re glad you’re here, because we know the world of college soccer scholarships can feel complex. Whether you’re just starting to consider specific programs, you’ve begun the recruitment process, or if you or your player has been contacted by a school, here’s a step-by-step guide to the differences between D1, D2, and D3 college soccer scholarships and what they’re allowed to offer. It is important to note these differences and be aware of what these different levels mean as you determine which schools might offer what you need. In short: The three NCAA Divisions separate schools by the level of competition and the resources of their athletic departments. So let’s get rolling…

Division 1 (D1)

Division 1 (D1) is the highest level of competition in collegiate sports and will be the most time-consuming and require the most commitment of the NCAA’s three divisions. Division 1 programs can extend a range of offers, from partial to full-ride scholarships. Soccer specifically, is an ‘equivalency sport’ which means that not all scholarships given will be full scholarships. This also means that any scholarship can be different in amount, even among teammates. 

In Division 1, men’s soccer programs have up to 9.9 total scholarships and women’s soccer programs have up to 14 to divide among their teams. There are currently 350 schools participating in the NCAA Division 1 level.

Division 2 (D2)

Division 2 (D2) is the next most competitive level in college sports, and the closest in similarity to D1 when it comes to commitment level. Like Division 1, Division 2 programs can offer partial and full-ride scholarships. In Division 2, men’s soccer programs have up to 9 total scholarships while women’s programs have up to 9.9. To further explain how this works, head coaches are able to divide the total number of scholarships allotted to them between as many players as they wish. As you consider these programs, there are 312 Division 2 schools in the United States.

Division 3 (D3)

Division 3 (D3) is the lowest level of NCAA athletics, which means it can be less time-consuming and allow more room for academics and other extracurriculars, especially in the off seasons. It’s important we note that Division 3 schools are not able to offer any sort of athletic scholarship. However, they can help to provide a significant amount of financial aid to athletes in other ways; need-based or merit-based. If Division 3 sounds like the right fit for you, know that are currently 438 schools at this level.


If you haven’t considered NAIA, know that’s it’s a great option for players who are serious about soccer and playing at a collegiate level, but maybe you know you like the feel of a smaller, or private school. There are more than 250 schools in the NAIA, and they can also award scholarships – soccer is allowed 12 scholarships per year, and the coaches can decide how to divide that amongst various recipients. 

Knowing this information, recognize how the system works and what is to be expected when you enter the college recruitment process. No matter what division suits you, it is important to watch the teams you are interested in play before committing. Make sure that you can picture yourself in the system and be sure that recruiting programs will appreciate what you can add to their team. Analyze their style of play and picture yourself on the field. Remember what we emphasize at Skillability – beyond your technical skills, look for opportunities where you can share your positive leadership, your focus and drive, and your selfless spirit. No matter what, the more soccer you watch and play, the more you learn, the better you will become. Remember to take the time now to grow in the game. Be confident in yourself, your game, and your training, and the rest will follow.

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